Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trail Restoration Report - Wolf/Blanchet Loop (Gatineau Park)

The National Capital Commission has recently completed restoration of part of the Wolf/Blanchet loop, one of the most popular hiking and snowshoeing trail in the Gatineau Park.

For almost any trail the causes of erosion are varied, but oftentimes drainage issues and steep slopes are
contributing factors.

In the example below (click on any picture to enlarge), proximity to a beaver dam leads to drainage issues and frequent muddy conditions.

The side effect of this problem is that many hikers walk around the mud, effectively widening the trail and increasing erosion in the area as shown below.

An example where the slope is a contributing factor is shown below. The soil that initially covered the root system of this tree was likely loosened by footsteps and surface water from rain/snow gradually exposed the root system.

Clearly this is a popular trail as can be seen in the pictures above. Restricting access (as a means of controlling erosion) isn't a reasonable solution and would go against the mandate of the NCC to "promote such public activities and events in the National Capital Region".

Instead, trail restoration offers a means of dealing with drainage and erosion problems. Bridges and steps can be built over sensitive areas. Drainage channels (or pipes under trails) can alleviate muddy conditions. Trails can be built-up with a stone base in humid areas.

The downside of these interventions is that the trail loses it's natural ruggedness and beauty. Seeing an ABS pipe under a trail or a smooth stone-based trail surface seems out of place in the middle of nature reserve such as the Gatineau Park.

The challenge in all of this is striking the right balance. Regardless of the approach taken, it is impossible to please everyone & to address all concerns.

The pictures below show the results of the NCC's efforts on this trail. The pictures were taken on the way down from the Tawadina lookout to Parking #13 by Meech Lake. Most of the restoration efforts are between the lookout and Trail #1. The remainder is from Trail #1 part-way towards Trail #38. Don't be misled by the appearance of the trail in these pictures. You're not seeing stone-dust, gravel or cement on the trails! Instead, the leaves covering the ground have been stepped on enough times by muddy soles that they've taken on a dull grey colour. You can see the same effect on some of the wooden bridges also.

The last picture shows what I mean by a stone-based trail restoration. You may notice an ABS pipe under the trail to allow water to flow from one side of the trail to the other.

As a result of these restoration efforts, the Tawadina lookout is now more accessible than ever to the general public. More people will get to see the breathtaking view and at the same time there will be fewer opportunities to have lookout all to yourself.

For those longing for the "untouched" natural beauty of this trail, the good news is that western half of the loop remains as rugged and challenging as always.


Blogger abduk said...

Give it two weeks and the mud wont be an issue!Nice spot.I have never made it up there.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Marc Charron said...

I don't mind walking in the mud and at the same time I'm looking forward to the snow. I just bought my first pair of snowshoes and I can't wait to tackle this trail with them!

A trail I've never tried (but always wanted to) is the Luskville Fall trail, probably closer to you than the Wolf's Trail.

I just came across a good web site that describes both of these trails. See

7:51 PM  

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